During emergencies environmental laboratories need a centralized location to access vital information. The less time it takes to retrieve analytical methods to identify potential contaminants the sooner response teams can ward off disasters. Online resources, such as the Water Laboratory Alliance Tools & Resources, promote standardization of emergency response tactics by enabling responders to share the same up-to-date information. In addition these resources can help laboratories prepare for a crisis by detailing what to do in different emergency scenarios.   

Water Contaminant Information Tool

Laboratories faced with known or suspected water contamination need a central location where they can locate information on contaminants. Others responding to an emergency need access to the same information to minimize confusion.

The Water Contaminant Information Tool (WCIT), developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides just that. WCIT is an online collection of useful information on water contaminants. Permission from the EPA and use of a password allow users to access the data. Currently WCIT contains information on 93 contaminants that pose a serious threat if introduced in drinking water or waste water systems.

Variety of Uses
As a planning tool, WCIT supports the development of response guidelines for specific locations and helps water utilities to assess their vulnerability to water contamination. As a response tool, WCIT provides immediate information on water contaminants to help decision makers respond. 

For more information or to register as a participant, select WCIT.

Methods for Environmental Restoration following a Contamination Event

Until recently there were no standardized analytical methods for laboratory identification of toxic substances released into the environment during a contamination event. Without standardized methods, effective clean-up is difficult, since different methods are based on different assumptions and are interpreted differently.

In 2004 a working group of the EPA’S National Homeland Security Research Center developed a set of standardized laboratory methods for response to environmental terrorism. Selected Analytical Methods for Environmental Remediation and Recovery or “SAM” lists procedures to identify and measure hundreds of chemical, radiochemical, pathogenic and biotoxin contaminants. SAM was last revised in 2012, and last updated in 2013. 

Sampling Guide for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water

The Sampling Guidance for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water provides comprehensive guidance that integrates recommendations for pathogen, toxin, chemical, and radiochemical sample collection, preservation, and transport procedures to support multiple analytical approaches for the detection and identification of potential contaminants in drinking water. The guidance is intended to support sampling for routine and baseline monitoring to determine background concentrations of naturally occurring pathogens, sampling in response to a triggered event, and sampling in support of remediation or decontamination efforts.